The choice of who becomes incoming Ohanaeze Ndigbo leader leads to infighting among Igbo politicians seeking to install party-sympathetic candidates.
The Enugu meeting of Imeobi Ohaneze on Sunday 6 December exposed a hitherto silent clash of interests, as politicians fought over selections and procedures.
Two former Governors, Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and Chris Ngige (Anambra), launched open attacks, describing the election process as flawed.
Yesterday, Ngige took the matter public in a tirade against selection of electoral committee members from Anambra, his home state.
At the Imeobi meeting, Okorocha, now a Senator, openly opposed a proposal to present Prof. George Obiozor as a consensus candidate for his home state of Imo.
The politicians see Ohanaeze as a strong force and source of voter influence in Igboland, hence their desperation to install an Ohanaeze president who is either apolitical or leans towards their parties.
Analysts said today that the diatribes expose a fierce battle raging between the two major parties, the PDP and APC, over control of the South East region.
To underscore the point, APC federal appointees stormed the Imeobi Sunday meeting to observe and intervene in the coming election.
In addition to Ngige and Okorocha, Ministers of Science and Technology (Ogbonnaya Onu), Environment (Sharon Ikeazor), and former Senate President Ken Nnamani attended the meeting.
APC sees South East as a battleground region in the 2023 elections, with the party controlling two of the five states in the regiom
PDP also controls two States after its governor defected to APC in Ebonyi State.
Anambra is ruled by APGA, although voters in the state have traditionally leaned towards PDP in national elections.
Igbo politicians see Ohanaeze as a strong source of voter influence, hence their desperation to install a sympathetic president.
In the 2019 general elections, Ohaneze shed its non-political garb and asked Igbo voters to support the PDP, to the chagrin of its APC members.
It is speculated that the endorsement contributed to the routing of the ruling APC at state and federal levels.
APC grows in confidence in the region
Hopes for the APC in the Region have been kindled by recent misfortunes of the PDP. These included a major court reversal, party defection by a governor, and the award of Senatorial election seat.
APC gradually builds strong political structures in Ebonyi and Imo States, following Gov. Umahi’s defection, while banking on three remaining governors to also jump ship.
The Ebonyi defection altered the regional balance of power between APC and PDP as both control two states each, leaving Anambra to the home-grown All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The Supreme Court had on 14 January 2020 awarded the Governorship of Imo State, originally won by the PDP, to the APC candidate who finished fourth in the election.
Last week’s Senatorial Election in Imo State followed a similar pattern when the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) announced APC as winner, without officially fielding a candidate.
The Ohanaeze 2021 Electoral Committee
Ohanaeze President Nnia Nwodo announced on Sunday that Chief Ben Obi (Anambra) heads the Ohanaeze 2021 Electoral Committee while Chief Ferdinand Agu (Enugu) serves as secretary.
Members were nominated from seven states of Nigeria with significant Igbo-speaking populations – Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers States.
The five core Igbo-speaking States of the South East each has four representatives, while South-South states of Delta and Rivers have three members each.
Other members are from affiliate Groups such as Ndigbo Lagos, Association of South East Town Unions, Ohanaeze Diaspora, Ohanaeze Youth Wing, Ohanaeze Abuja, Aka Ikenga, Izu Umunna, among others.
Ngige attacks Anambra selection
Ngige (APC) yesterday blamed current Ohanaeze leadership for populating Anambra members of the committee with partisan politicians.
He also alleged that the Anambra members are sympathizers of defeated PDP presidential candidates in the 2019 elections.
Ngige faulted the decision to not consult many Anambra stakeholders before the list of representatives from the state was drawn up.
Although he did not mention names, most people understood him to be referring to Mr. Peter Obi, PDP vice Presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections, and his principal, Atiku Abubakar.
Ngige dismissed the Ohanaeze membership list as “a product of non-inclusive process, overtly partisan and incapable of delivering an election that will be credible and acceptable to all.
“In Anambra State, for instance, key stakeholders were not all consulted leading to a skewed process that threw up politicians who were leaders in the campaign organisation of a presidential candidate in 2019 general elections and who has made no disguise of his intention to re-contest.
“Go through the list and see the same politicians who traversed the country with the presidential candidates, canvassing for votes. We hitherto complained of their misbehaviour and today, they are being empaneled to conduct election for Ohanaeze.
The minister said he prefers non-partisan people to conduct the elections.
“This is clearly a job for those without political party affiliation. There are so many whose qualification fall into such categorisation and good enough for the job,” he argued.
Okorocha rejects Imo Consensus
Ex-Governor Rochas Okorocha, now a Senator, took issues with the choice of Prof. George Obiozor as Imo consensus candidate for leadership of Ohanaeze from January 2021.
The presidency of Ohanaeze is rotated among the seven states of Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers States.
Imo State presents the candidate that will succeed Nnia Nwodo in January 2021 as President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
Okorocha said any group of people from Imo State cannot present a consensus candidate as this is unconstitutional.
He also expressed disappointment that Obiozor “could condescend to the level of becoming a consensus candidate with all his exposure.”
Okorocha implored Chief Iwuanyanwu to withdraw Imo elders’ proposal to sponsor Obiozor as president “in the interest of Ala-Igbo.”
Majority of aspirants from Imo State have since voiced their opposition to a consensus candidate.
The Ohanaeze leadeship has also faulted the move as unconstitutional.
Choice of incoming Ohanaeze leader
Enugu Metro learnt that the Committee has since swung into action as efforts are being made to pour oil over troubled waters.
This followed appeals made by Igwe Alfred Achebe (Obi of Onitsha), Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, and retired General Obi Umahi among other respected members of the sociocultural movement.
Senator Ngige’s statement is viewed as a last-ditch effort to save the Imo consensus candidate who has the backing of APC Governor Hope Uzodimma.
He asked that the electoral committee list should first be “rejigged and a proper consultation of Imeobi done” before the committee is inaugurated.
Ngige’s position is that “any persons with serious political affiliations to any of the political parties – major or mine – should be severed out of the list and replaced with non-partisan Ohanaeze stalwarts.”
Gov. Okorocha, on his part, is believed to be playing a “spoiler” as he continues a silent battle against perceived ill treatment by his party.
Enugu Metro gives an insight into why Igbo politicians are at war over choice of incoming Ohanaeze Ndigbo leader come January 2023. Its the 2023 general elections!Tweet